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Score one for the planet

August 6th, 2015

Several pieces of news in quick succession, have made in clear that the nightmare prospect of six mega-coal mines in the Galilee Basin has been staved off, at least for the foreseeable future. The key to the whole process is the Carmichael mine proposed by Indian conglomerate Adani. The rail line and port expansion proposed by Adani is necessary if any of the other mines are to proceed. Now the goods news

* Having already sacked its contractors, Adani is laying off most of its own staff, their non-denial denial notwithstanding. The break with Korean Steel company POSCO is particularly notable since POSCO was a likely equity investor and could have brought in debt funding from the Korean Export-Import bank
* The Federal Court overturned Minister Hunt’s approval of the project. While the grounds were technical, the decision raises the possibility that the whole process will need to be reassessed in the light of the adverse information that
* The Commonwealth Bank, the last likely source of debt finance for the project has ended its role as advisor

The remaining question is why, with no mine remotely in prospect, the Queensland government is still calling for expressions of interest in dredging for the proposed Abbot Point expansion. Hopefully, they have just been going through the motions. But, with the latest news, it’s time to stop throwing public money at this mirage. The tender process should be halted, at least until, and unless, the project is re-approved.

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  1. John Chapman
    August 6th, 2015 at 09:28 | #1

    This looks like the post of an “Extreme Green” as Big George Christensen puts it. Also, our dear leader strongly exhorts the benefits of coal, so maybe we should do a “pause for thought” given the position of these two illustrious gentlemen.

    I look forward to the day when Quarry Australia is complete, species are rationalised, and we can float about on our gigantic inland sea, with no white pointers in sight.

  2. Ikonoclast
    August 6th, 2015 at 10:20 | #2

    Yes, I saw a Qld Resources Council rep. (I think it was) on the news bleating on about how this was really bad and how we had to get coal mining going again to save the Qld economy (essentially). The I saw a Qld Labor minister (Resources?) bleating on about how this was really bad and how we had to get coal mining going again to save the Qld economy.

    What a load of tripe they carry on with!!! Firstly, they all say they believe in markets. Then when the market says in effect, “Nope, coal is a bad investment.” OMG! Suddenly the sky is falling and if we don’t state-subsidise coal mining and coal miners profits then the state will collapse.

    The next time they are consistent (a one in a billion event) I will buy a lotto ticket as it might be a “sign” that a one in a billion win event is due to come my way.

  3. John Chapman
    August 6th, 2015 at 10:30 | #3


    Iko: I think a very strong education campaign needs to aimed at the skull of Lynham, the ALP Resources or similar Minister. Plus some others, including the Treasurer. Labor here want to help fix climate change, on one hand, yet …….

  4. Newtownian
    August 6th, 2015 at 10:42 | #4

    The remaining question is why, with no mine remotely in prospect, the Queensland government is still calling for expressions of interest in dredging for the proposed Abbot Point expansion.

    This could simply be part of their 1950s policy of “openning up Northern Australia”. Not long ago they put out tenders for planning how this could be done with minimal government support – at least in respect to water supply which is how I came across it.

    There seemed to be this ideology based idea that the magic ‘market place’ would solve these issues without the need for government (tee hee).

    As we know they are also trying to push the Ord River scheme again which for all the money put into it is still relatively small bikkies economically but is a favorite of the 2nd most hated billionaire in the world (Gina – at least according to one of those factoid web sites – Ruppert comes in top – ahead of the Kochs Waltons and the Donald so this rating may not be reliable. Still it does seem to be something where we lead the world)

    Another possibility is that their speculator mates have bought up cheap arid zone land along the line of the railway like the robber barons used to do in the old US West. And their ‘investment’ looks threatened which could lead them to sue the government for compensation?

  5. Ikonoclast
    August 6th, 2015 at 10:43 | #5

    @John Chapman

    One can only assume they (Qld Labor) are;

    (1) Stupid.
    (2) Ill-educated.
    (3) Liars, who say they want to help fix climate change but who actually want to help coal miners and get political donations and jobs for the boys (and girls) from them.

    My bet is firmly on (3) as being a near certainty. The other excuses just don’t stack up.

  6. paul walter
    August 6th, 2015 at 10:55 | #6

    Just reading a Grauniad article on it.

    Quite apart from the global warming aspect, there are problems with protection of the water table and general environment and the dredging for the port facility has been attacked for some time as ecologically problematic.

    So we back to an enduring facets of development and development politics in the form, once again, of massively endowed corporations again unwilling to spend even a pittance on ecological concerns and protections and impacts on hinterland communities, say for example, health.

    The big business mentality just can’t conceive of money spent not directly related to an extractive process being a legitimate expense, no matter how small additional monies required may be.

    Reminds me of a doco I watched on TV last night about theClives Battle of Plassey and an aftermath of extractive greed and violence that resulted in 3-10 million people dying in a resulting famne caused by conquest and looting.

    Neo libs wonder at the scepticism of people as to truth claims by business as to its activities, but can any one detect even the slightest change in capitalist mentality across the span of history?

  7. Rob Banks
    August 6th, 2015 at 14:06 | #7

    This is not about Adani, but Shenhua: the story from Michael West in the SMH saturday 1 August includes a pretty strong suggestion their financial reporting and accounts are dodgy – where does this sort of thing fit into the approval process? Makes a bit of a mockery of the corporate sector preaching about corporate governance and accountability.


    I think he may have suggested similar things about Adani.

    Do we as a country not care about financial probity of people who make grandiose claims about the money and jobs we will get?

  8. derrida derider
    August 6th, 2015 at 14:17 | #8

    Yes, the LOCAL environmental harm should not be underplayed. The court’s decision might be technical but really it’s reasonable to infer that the reason the correct technicalities were not observed is because they would likely have resulted in a more difficult environmental approval process.

    AGW aside, coal mining and burning is a bloody awful industry that every year kills more people than Chernobyl ever did or will. That’s why a sizeable part of the decarbonising agenda is ‘no regrets’ – it would make economic and environmental sense even absent AGW. This in turn is one reason that agenda should NOT require major reductions in living standards.

  9. August 6th, 2015 at 15:53 | #9

    The winners of this case were saying that a reassessment will create a lot of trouble because there’s a lot more information available now about its financial viability. I wonder if Adani are going to use this as an excuse to back away from teh whole thing without admitting that their entire business model is shaky? After all if they can’t get finance to get a decent coal mining operation going in a completely friendly environment in one of the world’s biggest coal mining countries, people might start to think that their business model was shaky – but if they can blame it on a regulatory decision they can pretend that the deeper, structural problems of the coal industry aren’t real.

    It does give one pause to wonder though what is going to happen to the queensland economy. Given no one at any level of power in Australia is capable of thinking beyond dig!baby!dig!, how are they going to support the queensland economy as the mining boom really begins to collapse? They have no alternative ideas, and the international resources market is destroying the one industry they thought htey could depend on …

  10. rog
    August 6th, 2015 at 18:58 | #10

    Boiling water by fire is a very old technology, full of traps. About time we moved on.

  11. David Allen
    August 6th, 2015 at 19:42 | #11

    Maybe they were banking on the TPP to open up the way to sue for their profits rather than actually work for them. End stage capitalism.

  12. August 6th, 2015 at 20:24 | #12

    ” .. their speculator mates have bought up cheap arid zone land along the line of the railway like the robber barons used to do in the old US West..”
    They didn’t need to buy it. The federal government gave Union Pacific the land, a 10 mile wide strip around the line. The company had to shell out to buy the Congressmen, of course.

  13. jrkrideau
    August 7th, 2015 at 00:11 | #13

    @James Wimberley
    The company had to shell out to buy the Congressmen, of course.

    From what I have seen, US Congressmen can be bought very cheaply overall so it was probably not much more than petty cash.

  14. Collin Street
    August 7th, 2015 at 13:37 | #14

    > US Congressmen can be bought very cheaply overall

    Play to your strengths: between the lax regulatory environment and the low wage levels of the economy generally it’s more cost-effective to ship your corruption to the US than to produce it locally, and with the TPP we’ll all be able to share in the benefit.

  15. rog
    August 7th, 2015 at 17:01 | #15

    By saying that the decision by the Federal Court amounted to “red tape” Abbott appears to be interfering with due process, perhaps to sweep the rule of law aside in favour of business interests. His argument, that coal from Carmichael will provide energy to millions of Indians liberating them from poverty, seems almost incredible. Carmichael coal is too expensive for Indians and Indian govt, with Adani, are said to have prioritised renewables.

  16. Paul Norton
    August 7th, 2015 at 17:40 | #16

    After Abbott’s rant in the Oz this morning, I’m expecting him to write a personal manifesto titled “Mine Kampf”.

  17. David Irving (no relation)
    August 7th, 2015 at 17:42 | #17

    @Paul Norton
    What was he ranting about, Paul? (You know most of us won’t read The Australian.)

  18. ZM
    August 7th, 2015 at 19:08 | #18

    Paul Walter,

    “So we back to an enduring facets of development and development politics in the form, once again, of massively endowed corporations again unwilling to spend even a pittance on ecological concerns and protections and impacts on hinterland communities, say for example, health.”

    I was reading a chapter by Peter Christoff and Robyn Eckersley and one of the main points was that the real problem for sustainability and climate change is that national governments haven’t integrated their environment and economic policies, so the gains made by environmental policies are low hanging fruit gains like advances in technology and efficiency and also to a degree from offshoring of industry from advanced economies.

    So the environmental and economic policies really need to be harmonised to the objective of sustainable development, rather than having different goals that are often opposing like environmental protection versus competitive industry.

    Before the Commonwealth Bank announced their decision there was another planned day of action by 350.org for next week, instead of calling the action off the action has been changed to saying thank you to the Commonwealth Bank for coming to this positive decision, which is quite a nice way to turn the protest around I think, especially for the young people involved.

  19. Paul Norton
    August 7th, 2015 at 19:10 | #19

    He was ranting about TEH GREENIES “sabotaging” the Carmichael mine by going to the Federal Court over the failure of a Liberal Minister in a Coalition government to comply with the terms of legislation introduced by a previous Coalition government, and saying that 100 million Indians will freeze to death in the dark as a result.

  20. Paul Norton
    August 7th, 2015 at 19:19 | #20

    Those deep green Bolsheviks at Citibank have been saying all year that the global coal industry is in long-term structural decline – basically for the reasons that JQ has discussed in his posts on climate change and energy – and that the world price for coal is going to remain, for at least several years to come, well below the level that Adani’s own modelling shows would be necessary for the mine to be profitable. This may be a big call to make, but once it becomes official that the Carmichael mine is a busted flush economically, a long-standing and bipartisan orthodoxy about how Australia makes its way in the world will be likewise busted. Picking up on the points made by John Chapman @3 and Newtownian @4, our major parties seem to be in denial about this prospect and to not have much of an idea about what paradigm for Australia’s economic development should replace the soon-to-be-defunct orthodoxy.

  21. Ikonoclast
    August 7th, 2015 at 19:22 | #21

    @Paul Norton

    Exactly. They have no idea.

  22. Ikonoclast
    August 7th, 2015 at 19:33 | #22

    @Paul Norton

    Poe’s Law. One could not write satire of Abbott better than his own words.

  23. Ken Fabian
    August 7th, 2015 at 19:53 | #23

    For coal fired electricity to remain viable, coal needs to be cheap. For coal mining to remain viable coal needs to be expensive. Interesting dilemma.

  24. August 7th, 2015 at 19:58 | #24

    A John who is a different John, has pointed me towards this link to the futures prices for Newcastle coal which is of higher quality than what Galilee Basin has and commands a higher price: http://www.barchart.com/commodityfutures/ICE_NewCastle_Coal_Futures/LQ

    As can the seen, the consensus is that as far as the future market goes, all the way till the end of 2021, there will be no increase in the price of coal. In fact, if US inflation averages 2% it predicts a 16% fall in thermal coal prices. Now we can’t know what actual prices will be, and futures markets rarely get things exactly right, but they are the best method of predicting future prices we have and so I really don’t know what all these people who have been quoted in the Australian as saying that coal prices will soon go up are basing their assertions on. Perhaps they are using some other method of predicting the future such as examining bird entrails or looking up their stars in the back of the newspaper?

  25. Donald Oats
    August 7th, 2015 at 20:27 | #25

    Paul Norton, I too read (some) of the PM Tony Abbott’s rambling coal manifesto, and it is deeply embarrassing to have a PM picking winners that are actually losers. Isn’t the LNP the coalition that rails against governments trying to pick winners?

    The tragedy is that the PM is completely enclosed in thought-bubble wrap, and evidence-based claims are simple unable to penetrate the spin-foam encasing him.

    Meanwhile, multiple climate scientists are pointing to the recurring under-estimation of the rate of change of glacier and ice sheet destruction, why the estimates are proving too conservative, and what it means for the rate of sea level rise. But don’t bother yourself with this, Mr PM, it is just scientificky stuff, done by the kind of boffins you sacked.

  26. August 7th, 2015 at 22:36 | #26

    @Ronald Brak
    Roman augurs predicted the future from the flight of birds. Haruspices used the entrails (especially the livers) of sheep and poultry. All right, a hen is a bird, just.

    A competent haruspex or augur should be able to score about 50% by chance, since the input data are completely uncorrelated with the outcome. Common sense will raise this, when dealing with enquiries of the type “Can I defeat the 12th SS Panzer Division / Xth Augusta Victrix legion with my band of 200 lightly armed volunteers?” The coal shills are doing much worse than chance, since they are using data fabricated to make a case, or none.

  27. August 7th, 2015 at 22:37 | #27

    Sorry about the unclosed italics tag. When can we have comment editing?

  28. ZM
    August 7th, 2015 at 22:53 | #28

    The Environment Defenders Office in Queensland and New South Wales have just started fundraising for climate litigation now, and have videos online of Marjan Minnesma the CEO of the Dutch NGO that won the climate litigation torts case against the Dutch government a month or so ago. She spoke at uni and was very interesting and inspiring — one thing she said was that it took their lawyers about 3 years to build the case before it was ready for court, but she thought about 85% of their work could be used in other jurisdictions like Australia, so it shouldn’t take as long to get a case ready here.

    The main thing for an Australian case is getting people aware of the public trust doctrine. I asked Mark Dreyfus when he was talking at the Art Gallery here the other week how he got the community to support Australia taking Japan to court over whaling, but he wouldn’t exactly say. He did say though that he hoped someone would take the Crown or the Commonwealth to court over climate change though.

    “EDO Qld and EDO NSW were excited to host the Brisbane and Sydney visits of Marjan Minnesma from the Urgenda Foundation.

    Marjan’s visit provided a fantastic opportunity to hear more about the groundbreaking climate action case run by the Urgenda Foundation in the Netherlands.

    The District Court of The Hague has ordered the Dutch Government to take more effective climate action to reduce the Netherlands’ considerable share in global emissions. This is the first time that a judge has legally required a state to take precautions against climate change.

    Marjan Minnesma spoke at public forums in Brisbane and Sydney. To watch recordings of these events, please select one of the links below.”


  29. Megan
    August 8th, 2015 at 00:44 | #29

    Statement by Michael Roche, Chief Executive of the Queensland Resources Council

    The anti-coal activists’ victory because of the skink and the snake and a technical legal loophole has probably done the resources industry a huge favour.

    This issue has rammed home to the man and woman in the street the real implications for the economy and jobs of the activists’ wrecking tactics.

    The QRC welcomes the fact that the Prime Minister has called out these tactics and what is at stake.

    Maybe people will start to understand that there really is a well-funded and well-coordinated campaign being executed by the activists.

    They are using local conservation groups as fronts for fronting the courts, but the funding is coming from US-based philanthropists such as the Rockefeller Family Fund and Bloomberg, as well as locals such as the Graeme Wood Foundation.

    That money is breathing real life into the anti-coal strategy playbook tactics of ‘disrupt and delay’ using the Courts.

    We now need to see urgent and bipartisan action to close off once and for all the technical legal loophole.

    Mr Shorten has had a lot to say this week about jobs in South Australia and Victoria.

    Now we want to hear what he is prepared to do about thousands of mining jobs in Queensland.

    Nor is it good enough for the Queensland Government to wash its hands of these issues. The same wrecking tactics are playing out in the Queensland courts right now.

    The feedback to QRC is that ordinary citizens are concerned that these wrecking tactics have gone too far.

    Pew’s Australian Director, Barry Traill assures us that the reference to Pew Charitable Trusts in our media release was incorrect.

    Dr. Traill said this: “Any assertions to the contrary misrepresent Pew’s activities in Australia.

    Pew’s work in Australia is focused on developing constructive relationships with a range of stakeholders, including the mining industry, designed to deliver improved environmental outcomes in Outback Australia.

    Dr Traill has told QRC that he did attend the Australian National Coal Convergence, held in October 2011 and which resulted in the Greenpeace-led document, Stopping the Australian Coal Export Boom. However, he assures us that he has had no further involvement.”

    Still, it’s a bad look to have the Rockefeller Standard Oil billions (OK, tucked into a “foundation”) behind your anti-fossil-fuel environmental campaign.

    This all goes back to 2011/2012 when a bunch of ‘anti-coal’ groups got together in the Blue Mountains and prepared a “Funding Strategy Proposal“, and it was leaked to the “media”.

    The document says that it came about through:

    extensive input from participants of the first Australian National Coal Convergence, held in the Blue Mountains in October 2011. Particular thanks are due to Mark Ogge (Beyond Zero Emissions), Paul Oosting (Getup!), Ellie Smith, Holly Creenaune(United Voice), Barry Traill (Pew), Julie Macken (Greenpeace), Drew Hutton (Lock the Gate), Kirsty Ruddock (Environmental Defenders Office NSW), Jo Bragg (Environmental Defenders Office Queensland), Patricia Julien (Mackay Conservation Group), Carmel Flint (Nature Conservation Council), Chantelle James (Capricornia Conservation Council), Mark Wakeham (Environment Victoria), Kate Lee (United Voice), Geoff Evans (Mineral Policy Institute), Richard Denniss (The Australia Institute), Belinda Fletcher (Greenpeace) and Georgina Woods (CANA) for comment, critique and input on various drafts.

    When I see “GetUp!”, “United Voice” and “EDO” I automatically think ‘ALP Front’. That may or may not be a fair conclusion. But I would bet a million that I’m not the only one to make it, and when I think ALP I think ‘sell-out’ – especially to the fossil fuel extractive industries over the environment.

    The document (which has been used to death against climate activists ever since – as the gift that keeps giving) was only a proposal to raise money. And, the concepts in it are quite standard corporate practice.

    But the thing is that these people are trying to beat the pig by wrestling with it. Or perhaps risk (?) becoming the monster they are fighting.

    The planet will not be saved by corporate-style marketing/PR/strategizing and tactical techniques. And it certainly is doomed if there is no breakout from the concept that we must either squirm in a marketplace under a political duopoly cartel that is hell-bent on continuing business as usual, or emulate them.

  30. Megan
    August 8th, 2015 at 00:53 | #30

    Of course, The Queensland Resource Council is a “not-for-profit” organization – a bit like a charity – which gets treated accordingly as far as taxation goes.

    It looks after the interests of many in our community, including:

    Aberdare Collieries Adani Mining A.J. Lucas Coal Technologies Alcyone Resources Allegiance Coal Altona Mining Ambre Energy Anglo American Exploration Anglo American Aquila Resources Areva Resources Australia Arrow Energy Bandanna Energy BHP Billiton Cannington BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance Birla Mt. Gordon Blackwood Corporation Caledon Coal Cape Alumina Cape Flattery Silica Mines Carabella Resources Carbon Energy Carpentaria Gold Cement Australia Leighton Contractors Rio Tinto Coal Australia Civil Mining and Construction Liberty Resources Santos/TOGA Clean Energy Australasia Linc Energy Sibelco Australia Coalbank Macmahon Holdings Sojitz Coal Mining Cockatoo Coal MacMines Austasia Sonoma Mine Management CuDeco Mastermyne Stanmore Coal Downer EDI Mining Mega Uranium Summit Resources Eagle Downs Coal Management Metallica Minerals Superior Coal Ensham Resources MetroCoal Tata Steel Resources Australia ERM Power Millmerran Power Management Thiess Evolution Mining Minerals and Metals Group Vale Exco Resources Mitsubishi Development Vital Metals Golding Contractors New Hope Group Watpac Civil & Mining Guildford Coal Norton Gold Fields Wesfarmers Resources Hancock Coal Origin Energy Westside Corporation Investigator Resources OZ Uranium Whitehaven Coal Ivanhoe Australia Paladin Resources Xstrata Coal Australia Jellinbah Resources Peabody Energy Xstrata Copper Jindal Steel & Power QCoal Xstrata Zinc Australia John Holland QER Yancoal Australia Lagoon Creek Resources QGC Rio Tinto Alcan

  31. Megan
    August 8th, 2015 at 02:01 | #31

    “Maybe people will start to understand that there really is a well-funded and well-coordinated campaign being executed by the activists.”

    Yes Michael, maybe they will.

    But I don’t think it will turn out the way you are imagining.

  32. John Quiggin
    August 8th, 2015 at 07:40 | #32

    @Megan On the whole, I’d rather save the planet than worry about whether the people who are doing it are ALP fronts. EDO in particular has achieved great things.

  33. Nathan
    August 8th, 2015 at 08:52 | #33

    JQ’s point is the main one, but I though I’d additionally point out that on the list you provide the EOD representative is in fact a Greens candidate. So, probably not an ALP front after all…

  34. Megan
    August 8th, 2015 at 10:12 | #34

    @John Quiggin

    Me too.

    But the risk is that the two may be mutually exclusive.

  35. Donald Oats
    August 8th, 2015 at 16:48 | #35

    Just had a gander at the “Windmills, the Blades of Death!” report from the inquiry into non-existent evidence of deleterious health impacts of the turbines turning, turning, always turning.

    In the introductory chapter, section 1.17 (“Science and public policy”), it poses a list of questions concerning the interplay of science and public policy, with one question in particular:
    “what are the risks of basing public policy on `the current science”’, to which I can’t help but think of “Hey, what if we make public policy by ignoring `the current science’?”

    We are talking about some blades whirling around at a fairly leisurely clip, no smog, no CO2 emissions, no heavy particulate matter; nothing but some turning blades. If our politicians think for a second that windturbines could be that bad for us that we need to spend a bucket of money on examining the non-existent evidence, then why aren’t we doing the same thing for the petrol powered vehicles of actual death, the car? Shouldn’t we have strict rules like not allowing cars within 2km of the nearest house?


  36. John Chapman
    August 8th, 2015 at 17:51 | #36



  37. John Chapman
    August 8th, 2015 at 17:57 | #37

    @James Wimberley

    When hell freezes over, young man.

  38. August 8th, 2015 at 19:17 | #38

    When you think about it, quite a lot of fossil fuel will have to stay in the ground. But some will still be dug up or pumped out. You’d like to think that the bit being extracted is the bit that does the least possible damage to the environment during that process.

    Rather than granting environmental approvals in Australia, we should create environmental rankings that determine the order in which fossil fuel deposits are extracted.

  39. August 8th, 2015 at 19:20 | #39

    @Donald Oats
    I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen my fair share of birds maimed by motor vehicles. No doubt some of them were even endangered. Cars may well fall foul (so to speak) of our current government.

  40. jrkrideau
    August 9th, 2015 at 00:17 | #40

    @John Brookes
    While we may extract coal, oil, natural gas (have I missed anything) it may be a misnomer to call them fossil fuels.
    More like feedstock to things like cling wrap, plastic pails, etc? I was thinking the other day while fighting with box of cling warp that a lot of cooks are going to have to start thinking of other ways to store things when the price of plastic starts matching that of gold—well silver let’s say.

  41. Megan
    August 9th, 2015 at 00:44 | #41


    Glass jars?

  42. August 9th, 2015 at 02:37 | #42

    Jrkrideau, fossil fuels is an appropriate term because they are what used to be living organisms. Australia’s black coal deposits are the remains of plants that died over 300 million years in the Carboniferous period. And Prime Minister Tony Abbott is doing his best to ensure that Australian society remains a maggot living off the corpse of the Carboniferous.

    But there is no need to worry about plastic become as expensive as gold or silver. For one thing, oil fields will continue to produce small quanities of oil for centuries and that will be more than enough to sustain a chemical industry, and secondly there is no need to use oil or natural gas to produce plastics. They can be produced by plants or from things such as sewage. For example, Coca-Cola has announced that it will use plant produced plastic for all its bottles.

  43. James Wimberley
    August 9th, 2015 at 05:13 | #43

    @John Chapman
    “Young man”? I am 68. I take that from nonagenarians.

    Disqus for one allows edits to comments. It’s natural justice, as bloggers can always edit and correct. Goose, gander.

  44. Ken Fabian
    August 9th, 2015 at 10:54 | #44

    I’m not surprised that the resource industry’s response is to attack environmental regulation and those that insist it be upheld – and equally unsurprised that climate responsibility is entirlely passed over. In some ways, that it’s a couple of rare, endangered species and not the climate consequences that are impediments to major coal mining projects, allows the climate concerns to be dodged and species loss to be trivialised.

  45. David Irving (no relation)
    August 10th, 2015 at 11:05 | #45

    @Paul Norton
    Ah. I see what you mean. I think he already did, though – it’s called Battlelines, on offer at your nearest remainder table.

    Thanks for reading the Oz, btw, so the rest of us don’t have to.

  46. David Irving (no relation)
    August 10th, 2015 at 11:08 | #46

    @Donald Oats
    Picking losers is fine. It’s picking winners they object to …

  47. Paul Norton
    August 10th, 2015 at 12:44 | #47

    I see that today’s Murdoch tabloids (Monday 10 August) are running with the claim that economic modelling shows that action to address climate change will cost the Australian economy a squillion dollars multiplied by the largest number you can think of. Thanks to the work of people like JQ and others, we know that economic models that predict economic ruin from even modest environmental protection measures are usually based on assumptions that a sensible layperson can see the absurdity of at once, and that once the falsity of the assumption/s at the base is recognised, it is not necessary to inspect the dense mathematical superstructure of the model to know that its projections are crap.

    I might also mention that when I was researching my PhD thesis, I asked the research director of one of Australia’s main fossil fuel lobby groups whether any economic studies existed of the economic and employment consequences of past environmental protection measures in Australia that vindicated prior modelling claims of economic and employment losses that would occur if those measures were adopted. His answer, in short, was that they didn’t. Of course there was more to his answer than that, and he elaborated on the methodological difficulties of identifying any such effect of the measures over and above myriad other economic variables, but that in itself is surely grounds for being sceptical of alarmist claims in economic models.

  48. ZM
    August 10th, 2015 at 17:11 | #48

    Rob Banks,

    “This is not about Adani, but Shenhua: the story from Michael West in the SMH saturday 1 August includes a pretty strong suggestion their financial reporting and accounts are dodgy – where does this sort of thing fit into the approval process? Makes a bit of a mockery of the corporate sector preaching about corporate governance and accountability.”

    How mining companies stack up with corporate responsibility is possibly going to be important for divestment decisions I think.

    As in Australia mining companies are diversified, a lot of the coal mining companies also have other mining interests.

    Also, we still need coal at the moment since we can’t just stop using it tomorrow.

    Because of this it is not practicable for big institutional investors to divest from all companies that mine coal immediately.

    Therefore if big institutional investors commence a divestment strategy, they have to work out what companies to divest from immediately, while probably continuing to invest in other companies with the understanding that these companies will wind down their coal mining in a way consistent with targets to limit warming to safe levels.

    So to decide which companies to immediately divest from, examining environmental and social records could be used to decide on a staged divestment strategy.

    For instance, there are three particular companies involved in coal mining that are the worst of the worst — these are companies that specialise in avoiding their social responsibility.

    Glencore traded against sanctions in South Africa, and with Shell and Exxon Glencore specialises in tax avoidance. When Mount Isa Mine was taken over the mining was of a lower standard — but the tax avoidance was of a better standard so the company profited despite poorer mining since by its improved tax avoidance it could offer more to shareholders.

  49. Megan
    August 10th, 2015 at 21:57 | #49

    Canada’s version of the ALP has axed a renewable program:

    Canadian Province Pulls the Plug on Renewable Energy Program

    The Canadian province of Nova Scotia, on the country’s Atlantic seaboard, has ended a programme which gave citizens an incentive to produce renewable energy.

    The decision, which will initially mean lower prices for energy users, is at odds with widespread warnings that renewable energy must rapidly replace fossil fuels.

    One Nova Scotian told the Climate News Network the government’s decision was a backwards step: “They have not only cut the legs out from under independent energy developers…they have stolen citizens’ right to access ownership of energy.”

    The scheme is the Nova Scotia Community Feed-in Tariff (COMFIT), which was designed to encourage community-based, local renewable energy projects by guaranteeing a rate per kilowatt-hour for the energy the project fed into the province’s electrical grid.

    On 6 August the provincial government announced: “This is the right time to bring COMFIT to a close; it has achieved its objectives. We are now at a point where the program could begin to have a negative impact on power rates. Nova Scotians have told us they want stability and affordability when it comes to power rates, and industry wants clarity on the future of the COMFIT program.”

    The announcement went on: “No new generation is needed to meet electricity demand, and adding capacity would negatively impact rates as Nova Scotians pay more for energy with small-scale, community-based projects than from other sources.”

    As Brisbane band ‘Sceamfeeder’ sang: “I see a pattern forming….”

  50. J-D
    August 10th, 2015 at 23:32 | #50


    Nova Scotia is not governed by Canada’s version of the ALP.

  51. jrkrideau
    August 11th, 2015 at 01:12 | #51

    For a moment I thought you meant that was one use of plastic I’d missed.

    Glass jars in some cases, crockery, better sealed aluminium and steel pans, etc, maybe a return to wooden barrels? I used to work in the food industry and, at a quick guess, 90% of all our food products were in plastic of some kind.

    One could make a case that burning any petroleum products that could be used for more durable/valuable products is close to criminal. Well, yes, it’s already that but maybe we could up the sentence?

  52. jrkrideau
    August 11th, 2015 at 01:29 | #52

    @Ronald Brak
    My objection is to ‘fuels’ not fossil although as I am sure you know oil is not a fossil fuel. Why here’s PROOF*
    Oil. The 4th Renewable Resource.

    I suspect we may also find a lot of better uses for coal than heating but it’s not a subject I have looked into nor have the knowledge to do so.

    * Note obligatory nut-bar Upper Case usage

  53. Megan
    August 11th, 2015 at 01:32 | #53


    Yes, when I proposed “Glass jars?” I was replying to this part of your comment:

    I was thinking the other day while fighting with box of cling warp that a lot of cooks are going to have to start thinking of other ways to store things …

  54. Megan
    August 11th, 2015 at 01:46 | #54


    The “Liberals” (Canada’s version of the ALP) are in power in Nova Scotia.

  55. jrkrideau
    August 11th, 2015 at 01:51 | #55

    What is the closest equivalent (federally) in Canada to the ALP?

    I need some kind of cheatsheet to who is what in Australian politics.

    I did note that they both are red. 🙂

  56. J-D
    August 11th, 2015 at 08:20 | #56


    The (Canadian) Liberals are not Canada’s version of the ALP.

  57. J-D
    August 11th, 2015 at 08:23 | #57


    Canada’s NDP (New Democratic Party) resembles the ALP more closely than does any other Canadian party (although there are significant points of difference I could mention).

  58. Julie Thomas
    August 11th, 2015 at 08:34 | #58

    “MARK COLVIN: It’s shaping up as one of Australia’s biggest environmental contaminations, with precious groundwater and hundreds of square kilometres of prime agricultural land at risk – and people claiming they’ve been left seriously ill.

    For years, successive Queensland governments allowed mining company Linc Energy to ignite seams of coal underground at Hopeland, west of Brisbane, and experiment with the gases given off.

    The idea was to produce cheap diesel fuel.

    But the State Government now says the project – intended to spare the environment – was in fact a massive environmental time bomb.

    The ABC has obtained the key investigation report outlining the extent of toxic contamination to groundwater, soil and air at Hopeland.”


    What about this?

  59. Ikonoclast
    August 11th, 2015 at 10:13 | #59


    A lot of plastics are harmful to the environment too. Perhaps we would be better off ceasing fossil fuel burning AND greatly reducing plastics manufacture.

    On a related issue. With kitchen appliances and white-goods my wife and I have often observed that is the plastic components that break first and by a long way. These breakages necessitate expensive repairs (repairman visits) or with appliances can mean having to throw away an otherwise still entirely serviceable appliance. Meanwhile, all the metal parts are still good. Where metal is not good (insulation needs) there are probably other materials or better plastics available than the clearly cheap ones currently used. Plastic is vile stuff and should be used as little as possible.

  60. jungney
    August 11th, 2015 at 18:42 | #60

    I nominate the yaccas skink as Australian of the Year. Tough as, mate, stopped a coal mine.

  61. August 11th, 2015 at 19:11 | #61

    The NDP was founded in 1961 out of the merger of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) with the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC)


  62. Megan
    August 11th, 2015 at 19:38 | #62

    @alfred venison

    As I understand it you have first hand knowledge of both countries.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I perceive that the closest approximations (at present, policy-wise) are:

    Conservatives – LNP
    Liberal Party – ALP
    NDP – Greens

  63. August 11th, 2015 at 19:44 | #63

    while head of the ccf in 1959, the ndp’s first leader, tommy douglas (see “tommy douglas” in wikipedia) set in motion what in 1962 would become the first single payer universal public health plan in north america, for a province with less than a million population (see “saskatchewan doctors” strike” in wikipedia). this plan eventually became medicare, nemesis of the republican party & pride of canadians. his daughter (see “shirley douglas” in wikipedia) is a social activist to whom donald sutherland was briefly married & who kiefer sutherland calls mum. -a.v.

  64. Megan
    August 11th, 2015 at 20:39 | #64

    ALP/LNP = neo-liberal, free-market fundamentalist, pro US empire, pro-war, vote together on anti-rights “terrrr” laws;

    Conservatives/Liberal Party = ditto

    NDP/Greens = social democratic policies, pro-mixed economy, “left” of other two parties.

  65. Megan
    August 12th, 2015 at 01:01 | #65

    Since there isn’t a handy message board or sandpit…..

    Keen fans of democracy as it is supposed to be practiced in Australia would be familiar with the formal process whereby senators may introduce something that never stands a chance of even getting off the ground, and it goes a bit like:

    “I ask that general business notice of motion ….blah, blah, blah,…. be taken as a formal motion.”

    “Is there any objection? There being no objection…blah, blah, blah…”

    Anyone who listens to parliament would be familiar with that script – and there is almost NEVER any objection. I can’t remember ever hearing one, and I listen to parliament whenever I have the opportunity.

    So, here – today in the Senate – we have the ALP cutting off at the roots a Greens motion to recognize that we shouldn’t torture people:

    Senator WRIGHT (South Australia) (15:54): I ask that general business notice of motion No. 782 standing in my name for today, relating to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, be taken as a formal motion.

    The PRESIDENT: Is there any objection to this motion being taken as formal?

    Senator Moore: Yes.

    The PRESIDENT: There is an objection.

    Senator WRIGHT: I seek leave to make a short statement.

    The PRESIDENT: Leave is granted for one minute.

    Senator WRIGHT: I am greatly concerned that the government has chosen to deny me a chance to put this important motion to expedite the ratification of OPCAT, the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. This OPCAT was voluntarily signed up to by an Australian government in 2009, and since then both Labor and coalition governments have inexplicably dragged their feet in its ratification. OPCAT would ensure independent monitoring and reporting on places of detention in Australia, all those places where some of the most overlooked marginalised and powerless people are kept detained: prisoners in jails and police lockups, patients in psychiatric facilities, young people in juvenile detention, and asylum seekers. With very recent examples of deaths in custody and cruel and inhumane treatment of people detained, it is very disappointing that I have been prevented from putting this motion today. It is crucial to fully ratify the protocol and set clear time frames to implement. Australia’s own good standing is at stake.

    Senator FIFIELD: Just for the sake of accuracy, while the government does not support Senator Wright’s motion, it was the opposition that denied formality on this occasion.

    Senator MOORE: Yes, Senator Wright, we did deny formality to this important motion, because it is our longstanding practice. Where we have an issue such as this which is complex and creates a number of complex situations and also determines significant discussions across all states and territories, we believe it is not appropriate to use the notice of motion process for that, and that is our standard practice.

    ALP fascists actually going out of their way to be more fascist than the LNP.

    That sort of behavior can only be driven by a deep psychopathy, it has nothing to do with playing politics or democratically dealing with policy arguments. The ALP is one extremely sick puppy.

  66. jrkrideau
    August 12th, 2015 at 05:05 | #66

    Plastic is vile stuff and should be used as little as possible.

    Well, perhaps a bit vile but I’d still prefer oil etc to go there than up in flames.

  67. jrkrideau
    August 12th, 2015 at 05:14 | #67


    Well it does sound like the LNP is very close to our Conservatives (fondly known as the Cons) here in Canada while it’s difficult for me at this distance to see if the ALP are more Liberal or NDP.

    I’d probably have to move to Australia for a while to get a decent feeling for the party differences, about late October to Easter sounds about right.

    I don’t think, though, that your current PM has gotten quite as bad as ours but he is young in office yet.

    A few not-so-flattering words about ours:

    Another of Harper’s less attractive qualities is a perceived lack of loyalty toward others. One-time political adviser Tom Flanagan points out that Harper has betrayed or estranged many in the conservative movement who were at one time senior to him – Joe Clark, Jim Hawkes, Brian Mulroney, Preston Manning. This, Flanagan believes, is the product of Harper’s need to dominate whatever environment he is in. “I think he has this very strong instinct to be in charge,” he said. “He really wants to be the alpha figure, and he’s achieved that. So part of that is to dispose of anyone who might be considered to be a rival in some sense or another.”

    Flanagan also asserts that “there is a huge streak of paranoia in Stephen. And he attracts people who have a paranoid streak. And if you don’t have one to begin with, you develop it, because you’re constantly hearing theories.” At its root, “looking back, there’s a visceral reluctance to trust the motives of other people,” Flanagan concludes. …


    And the author is not a hostile journalist.

  68. August 12th, 2015 at 07:17 | #68

    that’s close enough for jazz, Megan, but see this, too, re: greens -v- ndp on oil pipelines:-
    ” In B.C. the Green party is not be trifled with. In the debate, the rest of the country got a glimpse why. ” – http://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/the-green-machine/
    also, there’s a transcript of the recent debate somewhere on the maclean’s site that might be worth your looking at; control-f the name “elizabeth may” and see what she had to say. -a.v.

  69. J-D
    August 12th, 2015 at 07:20 | #69

    @alfred venison

    The statement that the Canadian Labour Congress merged with the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation to form the New Democratic Party is found in other sources as well as Wikipedia, but is nonetheless incorrect. The Canadian Labour Congress didn’t merge with anybody; it continued to exist as an independent organisation. A correct statement is that the Canadian Labour Congress was a co-sponsor of the formation of the New Democratic Party. (The part about the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation merging into the New Democratic Party, however, is correct.)

  70. J-D
    August 12th, 2015 at 07:22 | #70

    @alfred venison

    So, if we’re comparing parties on the basis that the NDP was the progenitor of Canada’s Medicare, the next question must surely be to ask which Australian political party was the progenitor of Australia’s Medicare?

  71. J-D
    August 12th, 2015 at 07:26 | #71

    @alfred venison

    ‘Close enough for jazz’, perhaps, but not close enough if played straight.

    Researchers in political science have not yet paid attention to the Meganometric method of evaluating political parties by how much Megan personally hates them and rating as equivalent those parties that have similar measurements on that scale. Perhaps somebody should recommend it to them as a promising new line of enquiry. Or perhaps not.

  72. August 12th, 2015 at 08:19 | #72

    read the talk tab under ndp in wikipedia:-

    That [merger] is the term that is normally used. The CLC under the merger became part of the NDP, while individual members of the CCF became part of the NDP.

    split hairs all you want, it seems to be your forte. and you can call it the “Megan-venison” metric, if you like, i stand with Megan. -a.v.

  73. Ikonoclast
    August 12th, 2015 at 08:48 | #73

    @alfred venison

    “split hairs all you want, it seems to be your forte. and you can call it the “Megan-venison” metric, if you like, i stand with Megan.” – a.v.

    I second that (or is it “third that”?). It will have to become the “Megan-venison-Ikonoclast” metric.

  74. Julie Thomas
    August 12th, 2015 at 11:24 | #74


    Oh No! Not a split among the hard left already?

    And what this about jazz being “close enough”? Have you not heard of the Jazz police?

  75. Ikonoclast
    August 12th, 2015 at 14:02 | #75

    @Julie Thomas

    Well. “Jazz Police” sounds more like funk to me. Is that me being a Jazz Policeman? It certainly wouldn’t be anywhere near my favourite L.C. song.

  76. Donald Oats
    August 12th, 2015 at 15:27 | #76

    Since there is no Monday Message, I’ll plop this link here. A recommendation is that doctors are paid more if the health of their patients improves. Am I alone in thinking that will have the perverse effect of doctors avoiding chronic illness patients, or patients who could decline precipitously?

  77. Megan
    August 12th, 2015 at 15:53 | #77

    @Donald Oats

    No, you are not alone in thinking that.

    Other likely perverse outcomes of using a “price signal”:
    – initially diagnosing illness to be worse than it really is (and therefore overstate “improvement”);
    – overstating “improvement” (get up and walk! I’ve cured you) and therefore prematurely ending treatment.

  78. Julie Thomas
    August 12th, 2015 at 17:43 | #78


    This should be in the Sandpit now there is one. I agree, it is not one of his best songs by any means; but it’s intriguing.

    I wonder which jazz musicians he had in mind. I know a few who imagine themselves to be the policers of the purity of the jazz, and they didn’t like this song or find it amusing either.

  79. J-D
    August 12th, 2015 at 19:29 | #79

    @alfred venison

    I noted that the term ‘merger’ is used a fair bit. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s inaccurate. A false statement is not converted into a true one by repetition (although it’s been said that a lie travels halfway round the world while truth is pulling on her boots). The statement that the CLC became part of the NDP (offered in support of the use of the term ‘merger’) is false. Note that on the talk page all you’ve got is one person saying (correctly, as it happens) that the CLC still exists as a separate organisation and one other person saying (incorrectly) the CLC became part of the NDP, offering no evidence and citing no source. Note also that the web page of the CLC itself says nothing about its being part of the NDP. Don’t you think that if the CLC was part of the NDP the CLC would know about it? (Even if you’d rather rely on Wikipedia, the Wikipedia page on the CLC says nothing about its being part of the NDP.)

    As for the transnational comparison of political parties, on the one side I have the evidence of the official opinion of the NDP and the ALP themselves that they are similarly positioned parties; on the other side I have the evidence of the opinion of a few blog commenters. To me the first carries more weight than the second. Likewise, I have the evidence of the official opinion of the parties involved that the closest to a Canadian equivalent of the Australian Greens is not the NDP but rather (unsurprisingly) the Green Party of Canada, and again that carries more weight with me than the opinion of a few blog commenters. I am well aware that if a few blog commenters choose to believe that they know where these parties stand better than the parties do themselves, they can’t be stopped.

  80. Megan
    August 12th, 2015 at 23:31 | #80

    Over to the Sandpit.

  81. David Irving (no relation)
    August 13th, 2015 at 12:56 | #81

    @Julie Thomas
    Winton Marsalis, probably.

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